Posts Tagged ‘Jeffrey Page’

Even Trump Should be Appalled at This

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

By Jeffrey Page

Sean Spicer .. why is he still working?

Sean Spicer 

“Even Hitler didn’t sink to using chemical weapons.”

The words of the White House, as uttered by Sean Spicer, the usually snarly press secretary to President Trump, as he discussed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of sarin gas in his own people a few days earlier. The gas caused the horrible deaths of almost 90 people, including many children.

“Even Hitler …,” Spicer said.

That moronically misplaced emphasis – even – ought to have given pause to the president. After all, there was Spicer on the second day of Passover hinting that Hitler just might have gotten a bum rap all these years since 1945. Even Hitler. Never mind that he was a man with 6 million warrants out for his arrest. In many cases he had Jews and others murdered by poison gas.

Sean Spicer is 45 years old. It’s reasonable to expect someone of his age would have a better handle one of the major, man-made catastrophes of the 20th century, the Holocaust, and all the misery and horror it inflicted on 6 million Jews, Catholics, Romanis, communists and trade unionists.

You’d also like to believe that. while Spicer is entitled to his own opinion, he’s not entitled to his own facts. (Thank you, Pat Moynihan.) If a kindly nod to Adolf is all right for Spicer, you have to wonder about the president, the man for whom Spicer speaks. Did he carefully vet Spicer for the position of press secretary.

No? Why not? And what’s the effective day of his dismissal?

Yes? In that case, the vetting of the man who speaks for the president of the United States of America was insufficient. And again, what’s his last day on the job?

And the final questions. Didn’t Spicer, at age 45, know that the thing called the Holocaust actually occurred? Or is he a card-carrying Holocaust denier? And though it sounds like Holocaust denial, could President Trump confirm this?

Later in the day, Spicer apologized for making himself sound like an idiot for his remarkable take on recent European history.

Move On responded with a call for his dismissal or resignation.

 

The Majority Gets Whipped by Its Own

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

By Jeffrey Page

Rep. Steve Scalise

Rep. Steve Scalise

I really have to stop writing about politics and the people who play the game. The stink of it has become overwhelming and I find my gag reflex being tested day after day.

The latest issue is the existence of a man named Steve Scalise, who is the Republican majority whip in the House of Representatives. That makes him the third most powerful member of the House, an important man.

I venture to say that before the end of 2014, no one outside Louisiana ever heard of Steve Scalise. In fact, a check of The New York Times shows that the paper has mentioned Scalise in 136 stories. But note that 32 of those stories have been published in the last 10 days or so.

What shoved Scalise into the news was the revelation that 12 years ago he was the guest speaker before the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, a group that sounds benign enough, but whose leader at the time was David Duke, the former Grand Whatsis of the Ku Klux Klan.

In 2002, Scalise was a member of the Louisiana Assembly and addressed EURO on a tax matter. The Associated Press recently reported that Duke did not attend the meeting but addressed it by phone.

I believe Steve Scalise has the unalienable right to speak to any organization he chooses though I’d be much more comfortable if he were a little more discriminating.

Now it gets complicated.

After word of Scalise’s EURO talk was reported recently, he did what he probably thought was the most honorable – not to mention pragmatic – thing he could. He fessed up, kind of.

“One of the many groups that I spoke to regarding this critical [tax] legislation was a group whose views I wholeheartedly condemn,” AP reported him saying. “It was a mistake I regret and I emphatically oppose the divisive racial and religious views groups like these hold.”

This of course raises the question: If Scalise is such a tolerant, unbiased man of principle, why did it take him 12 years and the publication of an unflattering story to get him to read us his credentials as a man who hates racial intolerance.

Confessing is one thing. Confessing 12 years after the fact is an attempt to rewrite history and show the nation that Scalise is just a great, open-minded guy you’d be happy to have a beer with.

Meanwhile, the Republicans have leapt to his defense. Boehner; Gingrich (does this man ever go away?); Kevin McCarthy, the majority leader of the house; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal et al. offer a similar theme. Scalise? Nice fellow, not a racist cell in him, probably wound up at the EURO meeting totally unaware of its views.

Unaware that you’re going to talk before a racist organization? There’s a great Yiddish response to such bizarre statements: Pish nisht af mein fus, un dertzail mir az si regant, which translates to: Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

But once such stories start it’s hard to end them. Here’s another. Scalise has been questioned about a New Orleans reporter’s assertion that 20 years ago, when she was new to reporting, Scalise described himself as “David Duke without the baggage.”

At a recent news conference, Scalise was asked if he made that Duke statement. His answer as reported by the Times: “I reject bigotry of all forms and I think when you see the people that know me best, here and especially back home, people that I’ve been on opposite ends politically with, who know the truth and know my heart, they are the ones who speak the best.”

That wasn’t an answer. It wasn’t even a non-denial denial. It was just self-defensive fluff. Later, Scalise denied claiming to be the squeaky clean version of David Duke. And the reporter has stuck with her recollection of 20 years past. The truth will out soon enough; it almost always does.

E.E. Cummings had it right: “A politician is an arse upon which everyone has sat except a man.”

Death Penalty Dilemma Again

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

I carry with me a special loathing for the monsters in our midst who take out their frustration and rage by beating children, or killing them.

Recently I recalled several such stories I wrote in my years at The Record in Bergen County. Such as the young pregnant woman who felt funny at her high school prom, went to the ladies room, delivered a baby, strangled her, ate a salad and went back to the dance. Note: There is no exaggeration in that description. And such as the man who beat his son to death because the little boy pressed the wrong buttons on Dad’s TV remote.

What brought this recollection in these days leading to Christmas, was a story in the Times Herald-Record that demonstrated yet again what some people are capable of doing to children. The story centered on a boy named Mason Decosmo, or to be precise, the late Mason Decosmo.

Mason was about 2 years old. He was murdered, basically beaten to death.

The TH-R story was about testimony offered by the Ulster County medical examiner on the condition of Mason’s body. The story was accompanied by a head-and-shoulders picture of Mason. That photo shows a sweet little boy with reddish hair and a toothy smile. He looks like a happy kid though I noticed he had bags under his eyes, something you don’t expect to see in a toddler. There’s no mistaking him for anything but a child, yet those bags, and a slight crease in his cheek, give him the momentary look of a little old man.

Two years old. Walking around, in all likelihood. Understanding some words and maybe repeating some to his mother. Toilet trained? Maybe, maybe not. Was he in the early stages of the Terrible Twos? Did he love to watch TV? What was his favorite toy? His favorite storybook? We don’t know.

What we do know is that there’s someone in this world who had an unquenchable hatred for this little boy. For, as reported by the Times Herald-Record, this is what the medical examiner, Dennis Chute, found when he examined Mason’s body:

Mason was hit so hard that he suffered liver damage. Mason’s pancreas was torn into two pieces. Mason had internal bleeding. Mason had blood on the brain. Mason had a broken rib. Mason had a damaged lip. Mason had 60 bruises. Mason had torn skin on his anus. Mason, two years old, had bruises on his penis. Mason had bruises on his scrotum.

On trial is Kaitlin Wolfert, Mason’s mother, charged with negligence and abuse. She said she was unaware of how badly her son had been hurt and therefore didn’t take him to the hospital. Later, there will be a separate trial for Kenneth Stahli – Wolfert’s boyfriend – who is charged with murder.

When the killer, whoever he or she is, finally is found, my shaky opposition to capital punishment will again be tested. I grew up opposing it and was happy when it was outlawed in New York. After all, how certain can we be of a capital defendant’s guilt? What if we execute someone who’s innocent? These are absolutely legitimate questions, and I wish I had rational answers.

In the meantime, what do we do with the beast who murders a little boy like Mason Decosmo? Should he or she be allowed to live in our society? If capital punishment is cruel and inhumane, what then do we do with the people who kill little kids like Mason?

For now, let’s remember this little boy. May Mason and his suffering never be forgotten.

The Deaths of Strangers

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

Lately, I’m again thinking about the wretched deaths of two people I never met.

No one knew the true identity of the homeless woman who keeled over dead on a bench in Grand Central Terminal in 1986. But a group of people decided that she would not be buried as an anonymous number in the potter’s field and they made a funeral for her.

In the other case, in 2004, a baby – almost certainly murdered – had no name until a priest gave him one as his little body was placed in the ground. It was a funeral witnessed only by a photographer, a reporter, a cemetery worker and an undertaker who contributed an inexpensive coffin and some flowers.

In writing about these victims several times over the years, I reject the advice of an old city editor who advised me when I was a cub in Jersey City never to get emotionally involved with the people in my stories. But sometimes you just can’t let it go and so, later in a long career, I understood that the woman and the little boy deserved to be remembered. I would remember them. I told the priest I would kick in some money for the impromptu funeral if it was necessary. It wasn’t; no one charged a fee.

I expect I’ll spend the rest of my days occasionally giving a little ink to these two strangers, and writing about the gentle humanity in the homeless woman’s case – some people called her Mama, some called her Mary – and the outrage inflicted on the baby, whom the priest named John on the day of the funeral. Additionally, maybe at some time to come someone will read about them and realize a relationship to the woman. Maybe the person who tossed John into winter-cold water will read about him and make an appointment to meet with the prosecutor.

I was a reporter for a long time and generally followed that long-ago city editor’s words. I created a shield around myself that allowed me to see but not feel. But there are those moments when I allow the shield to slip such as in the cases of Mama and John.

Mama snoozed on a bench at Grand Central Terminal. The police had told her to move on, but it was cold and soon, she was back. She closed her eyes and fell asleep. Soon, a cop approached. She was dead. It was Christmas.

She was about 55. In addition to Mama and Mary, some of the homeless who took shelter at Grand Central called her Granny. She spoke with a European accent. She didn’t bother anyone, though she was shameless when she needed a cigarette. She’d ask anyone – commuters, the police, other homeless people – to bum a smoke.

She would have gone to the potter’s field on Hart Island had it not been for a woman from the Bronx who put up some money for a funeral. All at once, Mama had some dignity. She got a grave at Maple Grove Cemetery in Queens, a casket, a kaddish service at Temple Emanu-El in case she was Jewish, a priest’s eulogy in case she was Catholic. The priest quoted a Quaker line (“I expect to pass through this world but once…”), and a vigil was held for her at Grand Central in case she was none of the above. The cash was for a gravestone at discount.

There was a small gathering at her burial, and people still return every Christmas season to pay respects to the woman with no name.

John was discovered by a man walking along a stretch of the Raritan Bay shoreline called Ideal Beach. In the far distance you can see the Empire State Building and the Parachute Jump at Coney Island.

The man stopped, leaned down and found himself staring at a naked dead baby. The medical examiner determined that the baby’s fractured skull could have been caused by a blow to the head or, somehow less horrific, by smashing into something in the water. The M.E. also noted that the extent of decomposition probably meant the baby had been in the water for about a week.

He also held out the possibility that the baby had been alive when tossed into the bay.

The advice from a newsroom veteran served me well, but sometimes rules and common sense must be tossed.

Birth Control and Pure Ignorance

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee

Jerk: A person regarded as disagreeable or contemptible.

The requirements for election to the House of Representatives aren’t complicated. You have to be 25 or older, a U.S. citizen for at least seven years, and reside in the state you wish to represent.

I have a proposal to amend the Constitution. It would read as follows: “No person who is a jerk is allowed to serve in the House. Nor as senator. Nor as a governor. And certainly not as president. The United States recognizes that all people are created equal, but just as we wouldn’t allow a popular cocker spaniel to assume public office, nor would we allow a jerk to hold public office.”

The event that prompted my outburst was a pitch that came in the mail from Planned Parenthood asking for money and reminding recipients of some of the more outrageous comments by four men with bizarre ideas about what degree of lunacy the American people will accept from their elected representatives.

We have seen these quotations before, but there they were again, clumped in a tidy one-page display that left me breathless.

You remember this stuff of course.

— Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., declared at a hearing that women’s voices were “not appropriate or qualified” to participate in discussion of birth control matters. This is truly remarkable because if 51 percent of the population is not qualified to discuss birth control, new and dangerous paths are automatically opened. Remember when the majority were not allowed to vote at all in South Africa? What else might Issa see as unfit for the input of more than half the population? He didn’t say. But if women shouldn’t be at the table for talk on abortion and other forms of birth control because only they can get pregnant, you have to wonder if Issa would bar the 49 percent from the table when the subject is prostate cancer or low testosterone levels or male breast cancer or male osteoporosis. Issa didn’t say.

— In the wrangle over whether employers who offer medical coverage should be required to make birth control part of the benefits package, Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas said, “[Refusal to include birth control in workplace health coverage] is not denying women’s rights. If a woman then wants birth control, go work somewhere else.” This is a puerile response unworthy of half the legislative branch of our government. By suggesting that women quit their jobs – especially in the economy’s current state – and go marching out to an array of nonexistent jobs, Brownback lets everyone know the truth: He doesn’t give a hoot in hell about the real “facts of life.”

— Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and sometime candidate for president, shocked the nation with this moronic, sexist, and almost obscene observation: “ … women are helpless without Uncle [Sam] coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido … without the help of government.” Newsflash, governor: When a woman gets pregnant, there’s usually more than one libido involved.

— Finally there was Todd Akin, the genius from Missouri, who informed the nation about aspects of human reproduction that no one knew existed. To the question of the importance of making abortion available to women who get pregnant during rape, Akin said: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.” “That whole thing?” What is this man talking about?

Election Day is just 40 days away. Reject jerks seeking public office.

Dreaming an American Nightmare

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

obama tan suit

President Obama … no strategy on ISIS?

I dreamed an American nightmare.

I dreamed President Obama conducted a news conference and when asked about additional air strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria he said, “We don’t have a strategy yet” for dealing with the ISIS threat.

Then I realized I hadn’t been asleep at all, and that the president’s verbal shoulder-shrug was the real thing – sign language that translated to: We’ll have a strategy when we have a strategy. Here we are, 13 years after 9/11 and we kinda, sorta know what to do.

This is unacceptable. Not having a strategy against an implacable enemy doesn’t sound quite in the spirit of keeping 300 million people safe.

White House spokesmen can spin it all day long – and spin it they did after President Obama’s news conference – but in the end the fact remains that the President of the United States of America had just finished letting the world know, and letting ISIS know, that he hadn’t yet come up with a strategy for dealing with ISIS.

This is pathetic, not to mention dangerous, because you and I both know the reverse is true – that ISIS has a strategy for dealing with the United States. So oughtn’t President Obama have a plan that goes beyond “Don’t know; see me in a week?”

Asking people to wait for such a plan is asking too much because ISIS is no ordinary foe. It has been conducting a homicidal war against just about everyone in the Middle East. It has murdered two American journalists and several prisoners of war in a manner so unspeakable that ISIS has erased its name from the roster of the members of civilization.

ISIS has weapons and experienced soldiers and the will to use both. It has been described as “the real deal” when it comes to who represents the greatest danger to the Middle East, to Europe, and to the United States. It poses a direct threat to the U.S. because, as some intelligence officials believe, some of ISIS’s more ardent adherents are here in America right now because they live here. ISIS’s description as “an imminent threat” to the United States was not from someone with a loose mouth and no facts, but by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. And Hegel didn’t say this one hour ago, which might have given Obama an out for not yet having a strategy. Hagel said it in July. And the ISIS threat has been known far longer than that.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry had a piece in The Times over the weekend in which he acknowledged that America can’t deal with ISIS alone. It needs partners. “With a united response led by the United States and the broadest possible coalition of nations, the cancer of ISIS will not be allowed to spread to other countries,” Kerry said.

Sounds great, but I wouldn’t want to be the diplomat sent by Washington to, say, Berlin to ask German Chancellor Angela Merkel for troops and cash on behalf of an American president who has no strategy.

Someone at the White House must remind President Obama of the danger the nation faces. He also needs to be told that he leaves himself open to ridicule when he asks allies for help but has no plan.

On Wednesday, President Obama said the United States would not be intimidated by ISIS. Very tough, very bold. But it’s not a strategy.

 

Can the Public Get to the Public Hearing?

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

By Jeffrey Page 

The agency charged with deciding where one or two casinos can be placed in the mid-Hudson is conducting a hearing to find out what the public thinks.

I’m sorry, that was a joke. A look at some of its actions and decisions suggests that the clumsily named New York State Gaming Commission Facility Location Board doesn’t give a hoot in hell about what the public thinks of allowing casinos and their attendant delights – traffic jams, prostitution, street crime, loan sharking, etc. – into our once calm villages and towns.

How could I be so cynical? Here’s how.

The hearing, which is scheduled for Sept. 23, will run an absurd 12 hours. Did you ever have to pay close attention to an important matter for 12 hours like the five members of the location board will have to do? Nor have I.

Why just one grindingly long session? The Warwick Advertiser reported that Lee Park, the location board’s PR flack, said it would be more efficient this way, and that one long hearing would be best for the five members of the location board – never mind what would be best for the public. The Advertiser quoted Park this way: “These guys all have full-time jobs. It will be a long day.”

That response might suggest to people just in from Planet Neptune that the five location board members are a bunch of working stiffs who punch a clock every morning and afternoon. But that’s not the case at all.

Here are the five men who’ll be tailoring the future of the mid-Hudson, and therefore will have much to say about your future:

  • The chairman of the location board is Kevin Law, the CEO and president of the Long Island Association, an economic development firm based in Melville.
  • Then there’s Stuart Rabinowitz, the president of Hofstra University – based in Hempstead. He’s also a member of the Long Island Association.
  •  Next there’s Bill Thompson, the former New York City comptroller and now the managing director of the investment banking firm of Siebert, Brandford, Shank, which is based in New York City.
  • Fourth is Dennis Glazer, retired partner of the Davis Polk and Wardwell law firm, which is in New York City.
  • And fifth is Paul Francis, the managing partner of the Cedar Street Group, a venture capital firm located in Larchmont.

Park should rest assured that “these guys,” as he described them, would not be docked a day’s pay if they had to take an extra day or two to conduct the hearing in a fair, sensible manner.

Casinos in the mid-Hudson will change life here forever. So isn’t it odd – or, for that matter, outrageous – that not one member of the location board is a known Orange, Sullivan, or Ulster quantity?

Then there’s the question of where the hearing is to be held. Will it be in Goshen, the Orange County seat? No. How about Monticello, the Sullivan seat? No. Maybe Kingston, the Ulster seat? No.

It is to be staged in Poughkeepsie, across the Hudson in Dutchess County, a city not included on the list of possible casino sites.

Here’s Park’s response to The Warwick Advertiser’s question about the odd placement of the hearing: The location board decided against having the hearing in any of the eligible counties in order to “not show favoritism and to be completely objective.”

Completely objective? When not even one of the three counties is represented on the board?

Where are the mid-Hudson representatives? They rolled snake eyes and are out of it.

If you think the pols need to hear your position on casinos in general or the set-up of the location board in particular, you can reach State Sen. John Bonacic at 344-3311 in Middletown and Sen. Bill Larkin in New Windsor at 567-1270.

 

The Old Ball Game

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

By Jeffrey Pagerockland-boulders-secondary-logo

There’s plenty to grouse about at a minor league ballgame.

Example: Those stupid mascots that prance all over the field in the time between half innings. I think a mascot with a gyrating pelvis is inappropriate at a gathering where there are hundreds of seemingly innocent kids. But if the bump-and-grind weren’t enough, the bird-like creature that represents the Rockland Boulders in Pomona also parked himself on an inner tube and appeared to be delivering a lesson on potty training. Maybe I’m too critical.

Example: Then again, maybe I’m not. The Boulders’ announcement that if such-and-such a player on the opposing team struck out, everyone in the stands would get a ticket for a free soda at a future Boulders game. Now I have no problem with someone’s yelling to an opposing player, “Swing and miss, batter! Swing batter batter batter!” Somehow that’s part of the game. But to have free-soda-if-he-fans blasted into his ears (not to mention into our ears) over the stadium sound system? That should be outlawed by any league that is remotely aware of the concept of sportsmanship.

I could go on. There was the woman who sang the National Anthem and tried to jazz up “free” as in “o’er the land of the free” and proved that maybe the Star Spangled Banner is no rollicking affair.

But enough. Let’s talk baseball, which I thoroughly enjoyed at the Boulders game.

There’s a certain purity to be found in minor league baseball that once existed in the bigs but doesn’t much anymore.

The Boulders played the Trois Rivieres Aigles from Quebec at Provident Bank Park in Pomona. It was cat and mouse for the first seven and a half innings with the score tiptoeing one run at a time, finally reaching 3-3. The Boulders needed a run; I needed a hot dog. They succeeded; I got a dog whose flavor was unlike any other frank I’d ever consumed. That is not a compliment.

The major leagues have fixated on the home run, to the near exclusion of other run-producing weapons. But as Rockland and Trois Rivieres had at it, I got a nice taste of what the game used to be about.

For example, I saw the Boulders attempt a hit-and-run play, and could not recall the last time I’d seen this exciting tactic. (The runner on first base starts running as the pitcher lets go of the ball. The batter must make contact because if he misses, the runner is toast. If the hitter succeeds and gets a base hit to the outfield, the runner could well reach third base.

Rockland tried it and failed but at least I saw the attempt. Done right, the hit-and-run is as much choreography as it is athleticism and fun to watch.

Something else you find at little places like Provident Bank Park is the sacrifice bunt to move a runner. Do they bunt at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium? Maybe not at the stadium because it’s an American League park and AL teams have the designated hitter – an abomination if you ask me – and probably figure they don’t need to ask their players to bunt.

I saw one of the Aigles lay a bunt down so exquisitely that it caught the Boulders’ infield glued in place. Keats easily could have been describing a left-handed batter pushing a bunt along the third base line when he observed that a thing of beauty is a joy forever.

Back to the present. The Boulders’ bats, which had been suffering from iron deficiency anemia, finally came to in the bottom of the eighth, and the home team scored six runs with single after single. Very exciting. The Aigles picked up two runs – on a home run – in the top of the ninth, and that was it. The final: 9-5. A nice evening.

The hot dogs may taste like an alien life form, the management may make kids look like braying fools by tossing t-shirts into the stands and the children pleased for a shirt to be thrown in their direction, and we still may be blasted with a few notes from the Toreador Song, the Notre Dame Fight Song, and other adrenaline anthems after every pitch, but I’m going back.

It’s a great place to see some baseball.

Beck

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

One generation in the Shubinsky line has just passed away. The earth of course will abide and I suppose that this, plus my aunt’s having had far more years than most people get, should bring comfort. But I’m bereft.

She was the youngest of three sisters, the only one born here in America. Her name was Rebecca. She was Becky to most people. To me, for some reason I’ve never been able to recall, she was always Beck.

She was married once to a guy who became some big hotshot in the Army. I have no memory of him. But later she married Mickey Klein, one of the sweetest men on the planet. It was from Mickey and Beck I learned my first Yiddish expression.

Soon after they got married, they came to visit us in Queens. My father was in the process of berating me for some transgression I was unaware I had committed. I imagine Mickey sensed my terrible embarrassment, and from him came the plea: luz-em-oop – leave him alone. Beck immediately agreed and my dad’s lesson was over, and these three short sounds became a kind of mantra, the secret password among my aunt, my uncle and me.

Funny how we remember these little moments that shape our lives and bond relationships.

During the war, Beck moved to Washington to take a job with the Navy. She wound up as secretary to some VIP. The story my mother told was that Beck was supposed to type up an official order noting that submariners were to have a service patch sewn onto their uniforms over the left shirt-pocket. Or maybe it was to be sewn onto the left sleeve. Doesn’t matter. What mattered was that Beck got it wrong. Maybe it had been a late night and she didn’t get enough sleep. In any event, for a while no one noticed. For me, it was a point of pride that my aunt changed the course of history. Sort of.

Even around the age of 4 I had a crush on Beck. In the words of the time, she was a swell-looking dame, with a great smile and a soft voice. Whenever she came to see us she would bring something for me. She kissed me a lot. Hugged me as well. In one visit she stood talking with my dad outside the gates of King Park in Jamaica. She kept beckoning me to come over for the gift she bought for me. But I was too bashful and kept riding my three-wheel bike in larger and larger circles.

Later, I opened her gift. It was a record of the Three Little Pigs. Since it was from Beck I had my father play it over and over. I must have listened a dozen times before the record finally broke in two. I’d like to say she got me another, but I don’t remember.

She and Mickey finally moved to Florida and we saw less of them but managed about once a year. Distance can be a curse.

When Mickey died a few years ago, I was saddened. Beck died this week. It doesn’t matter that she was 99. I’m heartbroken.

Commencement

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

My grandniece Olivia graduated from high school in Fair Lawn this week. I bore witness, except for the several moments when I realized I’d tuned out the speeches and was thinking back to the day I graduated from Forest Hills High School in Queens.

The beaming Olivia, a terrific young scholar, seemed happy and excited by the business of the day. She looked great. Most important she has a positive view of her future, which is an important way to experience life after high school.

My experience was different.

There were so many seniors in the Forest Hills commencement in Forest Park, and the line was so long (alphabetical order) that some of us P’s, R’s, S’s, and T’s snuck out to the street and smoked. We were very cool.

I accepted my diploma, shook someone’s hand and asked my mother if we could leave now. I surrendered my rented gown and mortarboard and realized that my sense of dread centered on three questions I couldn’t answer.

With mandatory school now over forever, what would I do tomorrow? What would I do next Tuesday? And with no appreciable skills what would I do with the rest of my life now that I’d sort of ensured that no college would have me and that without more education, I was doomed to a hand-to-mouth existence. That’s how it sounded in those days: No sheepskin? You’re dead.

Any college admissions officer quickly would see how awful a student I’d been. Let me rephrase that; I was a dolt. I had amassed a catalogue of lousy grades, an embarrassing grade on my math SAT (though a fairly decent one on the language part), and no community work to speak of. I even had a teacher who wanted to bet me 50 cents I’d fail a Spanish Regents exam. I’m not blaming her for anything except being a needless irritant on whatever degree of self-confidence I possessed.

Essentially, I had spent four years at Forest Hills doing very little aside from reading novels and newspapers, and now I was being cut loose. I was happy to know the alarm clock would not be set that night and that I wouldn’t have to start thinking up excuses for not having done various homework assignments. But I was scared. All my questions boiled down to one: What happens next? And I had no idea

I took some menial jobs and learned how boring the work life could be. I registered for a few night courses at Queens College. I read Hemingway and Joyce, Emily Dickinson and Dylan Thomas, Shakespeare and others, and realized these people were my education.

Sometimes things have a way of working out.

I applied for a job as a copyboy at The New York Post and learned how to sharpen pencils and take coffee and sandwich orders from the editors and reporters. I also wrote some small headlines. That was pretty boring, too but it was the start of a happy newspaper life. I reported crime stories in Jersey City for the Jersey Journal. I covered Sullivan County for The Times Herald-Record. And I covered transportation for The Record of Hackensack.

What a way to make a living: Find interesting people and extraordinary situations and write those stories in a way that encouraged readers to go all the way to the end of the tale.

One more thing. That Spanish Regents test?

I got a 75.